Signs of the Times (4/23/13)

Boston Bomber Says Brothers Acted Alone

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bombing suspect, has told investigators that his brother was the driving force behind the attacks and that they were motivated by religion, but did not have help or contact from terrorists or groups overseas, according to media reports quoting U.S. officials. Dzhokhar, who has injuries in his throat and tongue, has responded to questions about the attack by writing down some answers or simply nodding. Tsarnaev indicated that the two brothers conceived of the bombing attack on their own and were motivated by religious fervor. Officials also say that Tsarnaev told them they learned how to make bombs on the Internet. The brothers appear to have gotten their ideas — and bomb-making know-how — from Inspire, an English-language website Al Qaeda uses to radicalize Westerners, officials say.

The young widow of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev learned of his alleged role in the attacks the same way millions of Americans did: She saw it on TV. Katherine Russell, 24, worked long days as a home health care aide and suspected nothing — neither as her husband allegedly planned last week’s terrorist attacks nor in the four days that followed, her attorney, Amato DeLuca, told the Associated Press. He said Tsarnaev, 26, cared for the couple’s 3-year-old daughter while Russell worked. Russell converted to Islam and they married in 2009.

A key question has emerged as investigators comb through clues: What did Tamerlan Tsarnaev do during a trip to Russia and Chechnya from January to July of last year? Tamerlan was flagged as a potential extremist by Russian security services. After Tsarnaev returned to the United States in mid-July, a video of an Islamic militant known as Abu Dujana was posted and then removed from Tsarnaev’s YouTube channel. Tamerlan had already been investigated by the FBI. Why wasn’t this trip explored for links to terrorist training camps in Chechnya, a hotbed of Islamic militancy? Why wasn’t Tamerlan on a watch list?

  • Expect a lot of coverups and false information as the FBI and CIA scramble to avoid blame

Terrorist Suspects Arrested in Canada

Two men accused of planning to carry out an al Qaeda-supported attack against a passenger train traveling between Canada and the United States will make their first court appearance on Tuesday, police said. The hearing in Toronto’s Old City Hall Court comes a day after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced they had arrested 30-year-old Chiheb Esseghaier of Montreal and 35-year-old Raed Jaser of Toronto. The two men face charges of “receiving support from al Qaeda elements in Iran” to carry out an attack and conspiring to murder people on a VIA railway train in the greater Toronto area.

Public Support for Gun Control Fades

Four months after the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a USA TODAY Poll finds support for a new gun-control law ebbing as prospects for passage on Capitol Hill seem to fade. Americans are more narrowly divided on the issue than in recent months, and backing for a bill has slipped below 50%, the poll finds. By 49%-45%, those surveyed favor Congress passing a new gun-control law. In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in early April, 55% had backed a stricter gun law, which was down from 61% in February.

  • The two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings were not licensed to have the firearms they used in several shootouts with police, Reuters reported. Gun control has little effect on criminals and terrorists.

Immigration Reform Bill Draws Criticism from Both Sides

Register with the government. Submit fingerprints. Pass background checks. Pay fines, application fees and taxes. Remain employed. Wait 10 years to apply for a green card. Learn English. Those are among the major hurdles immigrants currently in the country illegally would have to clear to eventually become citizens under the sweeping immigration-reform bill introduced last week by a bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators. The pathway to citizenship is expected to be the most contentious and scrutinized section of the proposed legislation as the debate in Congress and among the public unfolds over the coming weeks. The 844-page bill also calls for billions of extra dollars in border-security spending to prevent illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexican border.

The proposal, introduced Wednesday, is already drawing criticism from both sides of the debate. Many immigrant advocates say the pathway is too long; many opponents of illegal immigration, who played a major role in derailing immigration-reform attempts in 2006 and 2007, remain opposed to any legalization program, no matter how long or difficult, calling it amnesty.

Americans ‘Snapping’ by the Millions

The sheer stress of living in today’s America is driving tens of millions to the point of illness, depression and self-destruction, according to WorldNetDaily:

  • Suicide has surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of injury death for Americans. Even more disturbing, in the world’s greatest military, more U.S. soldiers died last year by suicide than in combat.
  • Shocking new research from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that one in five of all high-school-aged children in the United States has been diagnosed with ADHD, and likewise a large new study of New York City residents shows, sadly, that one in five preteens – children aged six to 12 – have been medically diagnosed with either ADHD, anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Incredibly, 11 percent of all Americans aged 12 and older are currently taking SSRI antidepressants – those highly controversial, mood-altering psychiatric drugs with the FDA’s “suicidality” warning label and alarming correlation with school shooters. Women are especially prone to depression, with a stunning 23 percent of all American women in their 40s and 50s – almost one in four – now taking antidepressants, according to a major study by the CDC
  • Add to that the tens of millions of users of all other types of psychiatric drugs, including (just to pick one) the 6.4 million American children between 4 and 17 diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin or similar psycho-stimulants. Throw in the 28 percent of American adults with a drinking problem, that’s more than 60 million, plus the 22 million using illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants, and pretty soon a picture emerges of a nation of drug-takers, with hundreds of millions dependent on one toxic substance or another – legal or illegal – to “help” them deal with the stresses and problems of life.
  • Things are no better across the Atlantic – and may be worse, according to one major study that concluded almost 40 percent of Europeans are plagued by mental illness.
    • Separation from and rejection of God is the underlying cause of all mental/emotional problems

Economic News

Total existing-home sales fell 0.6% in March from February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million. The slip, which surprised Wall Street analysts, was blamed largely on a lack of supply. Buyer traffic was 25% above year-ago levels, NAR says, but housing inventories were down almost 17% year-over-year. But, home sales were up 10.3% from March 2012.

After a sharp early year run-up that was expected to continue propelling prices up to $4 or more a gallon by late spring, pump prices have reversed course and continue to slide. Nationally, a gallon of gas now averages $3.51, down 18 cents over the past four weeks and 37 cents lower than year-ago prices. With crude oil prices slumping, prices are expected to fall another 20 cents a gallon by Memorial Day. Meanwhile, April consumption is the lowest since 1997. In some states, prices could fall below $3 a gallon.

Afghanistan

A civilian transport helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing in a Taliban-controlled area of eastern Afghanistan, and the insurgents took all nine people who were on board hostage, officials said Monday. Officials could not say whether the aircraft had made a precautionary landing or whether the Taliban had forced it down. Taliban fighters then captured all nine aboard the helicopter and took them from the area, The crew members and passengers are all civilian, but officials said they did not know their identities or nationalities.

Syria

Israel’s senior military intelligence analyst said Tuesday that the Syrian government had repeatedly used chemical weapons in the last month, and criticized the international community for failing to respond, intensifying pressure on the Obama administration to intervene. “The regime has increasingly used chemical weapons,” said Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, research commander in the intelligence directorate of the Israeli Defense Forces, echoing a recent finding by Britain and France. “The very fact that they have used chemical weapons without any appropriate reaction,” he added, “is a very worrying development, because it might signal that this is legitimate.”

The bodies of at least 566 people who were killed over a six-day period across Syria were found Sunday, according to Local Coordination Committees in Syria, an opposition group based in the country. That is the highest number of victims discovered in a single day since the war began in March 2011. Over the past six days, some 3,000 members of the security forces stormed the area. The dead include at least 300 civilians and 150 members of the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Libya

France’s embassy in the Libyan capital of Tripoli has been hit by a car bomb, Libyan security officials told the Associated Press. Two guards were injured as a result of the attack and the blast caused extensive damage. The bomb set off a fire near the entrance to the embassy and two other nearby buildings also sustained damage. Foreign diplomatic missions have been targets in Libya since the country’s former leader, Moammar Gadhafi, was removed from power in 2011. The eastern city of Benghazi has also seen frequent attacks. An attack on the U.S. consulate on Sept. 11 left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, and there was an assassination attempt on Italian Consul Guido de Sanctis in January.

Nigeria

Fighting between Nigeria’s military and Islamic extremists killed at least 185 people in a fishing community in the nation’s far northeast, officials said Sunday, an attack that saw insurgents fire rocket-propelled grenades and soldiers spray machine-gun fire into neighborhoods filled with civilians. The assault marks a significant escalation in the long-running insurgency Nigeria faces in its predominantly Muslim north, with Boko Haram extremists mounting a coordinated assault on soldiers using military-grade weaponry. The killings also mark one of the deadliest incidents ever involving Boko Haram. Officials could not offer a breakdown of civilian casualties versus those of soldiers and extremist fighters. Many of the bodies had been burned beyond recognition.

Earthquakes

A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck in the Mexican state of Michoacan on Sunday night, causing buildings to sway 200 miles away in Mexico City. Some people evacuated buildings in the capital, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. State officials in Michoacan also said they had no reports of casualties or damage. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake’s epicenter was about 23 miles northeast of the Pacific port of Lazaro Cardenas. That is about 202 miles west-southwest of Mexico City.

Weather

We are now a month past the official start of spring and some parts of the central United States can’t shed the feeling of winter. Specifically, in the last two weeks we’ve seen three named winter storms spread significant snow in parts of the Rockies, Plains and Upper Midwest. Now, a fourth winter storm has delivered even more snow to those regions followed by record cold temperatures. This latest storm delivered more than a foot of snow to western South Dakota. Snow totals of 6 to 10 inches were measured in the Rapid City, S.D. area.

Flooding in the Midwest has turned fatal Saturday, with at least two deaths blamed on flash flooding and a third suspected. States of emergency were declared in half a dozen states, residents were evacuated and roads were closed in the affected areas. On Sunday, more than 45 river/stream gauges showed major floods in parts of Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan. Record flooding has been been recorded at around a dozen river gauges in Illinois. Record flooding is ongoing on the Grand River in Grand Rapids, Mich. More rain is expected to fall on Tuesday in the areas hit hard by flooding last week.

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